Do what you love?

I have a job. It’s a really really good job, especially by old-school standards: it’s comfortable, it’s safe, it’s well compensated, etc. But by current follow-your-bliss standards, I feel like a failure. Why? It’s not my life’s passion. I don’t wake up in the morning dreaming about how to help publishers grow their digital business. I do it all day, and I think I do it well, but it’s not the first thing I’d tell anyone about myself.

(As an aside, my bliss probably involves sitting under a tree with a book, drinking beer and eating brie, and that’s really not going to help anybody.)

This article gets to the heart of the innate classicism of “Do what you love”:

“In ignoring most work and reclassifying the rest as love, DWYL may be the most elegant anti-worker ideology around…“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is an unmerited privilege, a sign of that person’s socioeconomic class.”

Part of the reason I shied away from traditional publishing was the preponderance of young women with shiny degrees getting paid terrible wages while being supported by their parents, all so they could be editorial assistants on Danielle Steele novels. Publishing, I thought, is in trouble if it thinks it’s ok that its employment pool is so homogenous.

If we believe that working as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or a museum publicist or a think-tank acolyte is essential to being true to ourselves — in fact, to loving ourselves — what do we believe about the inner lives and hopes of those who clean hotel rooms and stock shelves at big-box stores? The answer is: nothing.”

The article also discusses the indentured servitude/Stockholm syndrome of academia, the rise of unpaid internships, and the fact that feminized professions are often the low-paid ones. 

Women comprise the majority of the low-wage or unpaid workforce; as care workers, adjunct faculty, and unpaid interns, they outnumber men. What unites all of this work, whether performed by GEDs or PhDs, is the belief that wages shouldn’t be the primary motivation for doing it. Women are supposed to do work because they are natural nurturers and are eager to please; after all they’ve been doing uncompensated childcare, elder care, and housework since time immemorial.”

The most compelling argument, to me, is the main thrust of the piece: that DWYL not only puts bizarre pressure on those who have the resources to choose a career path, but undervalues all work that isn’t passion inspiring. 

In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. It shunts aside the labor of others and disguises our own labor to ourselves. It hides the fact that if we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.”

Aaaand I basically quoted the whole thing. But go read it anyway.

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